Addressing High Moisture Content in Your Cannabis Extracts
Having a high moisture content in your cannabis extracts can become very problematic. The extra water retention is a problem operators may run into during the process of extraction. How the biomass is treated before it is extracted can greatly determine the water content of the end extract. There are two main ways to prepare your plant biomass for extract. One is full plant, fresh-frozen, where flower and sugar leaves are harvested and immediately crash frozen under -28 degrees C. The second method and most common is the Dry Trim Method, where after the trim is collected, it is cured to remove residual moisture until ready for processing. The dry trim method is argued to be less effective at retaining the full terpene and cannabinoid profiles but the upside is much dryer biomass to work with. Even though fresh-frozen has better efficacy in terpene and cannabinoid retention, the greatly increased water content can cause problems later in the production line. The added water can lead to rancidity leading to a greatly reduced shelf life in your extracts and can be troublesome to remove.
Unfortunately, there are not very many good ways to remove the residual water that also keeps the lighter terpenes intact. A common way of removing this excess water is using a vacuum dryer, but the one problem is a vacuum dryer can volatilize and whisk terpenes away to the pump. Another much less talked about method is using a desiccant to absorb that moisture released into the air. A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance, molecularly hungry for water. It can dry the atmosphere, and in turn, dehydrate any item within the atmosphere. For use with cannabis, a silica-based, food-grade desiccant would most likely be best. It is an inherently more gentle approach for removal of excess water than vacuum drying but it has not been used on a large scale anywhere that we have seen.
What methods do you use to dry your extracts if you have too much water retention? Is this just another impractical method used by small growers that is not applicable to larger scale operations? What methods do you use to dry your extracts if you have too much water retention?